Monday, April 30, 2012

Of Faith and Curiosity

So, to continue the thoughts of my last post, wherein I talked about my writing fears, I wanted to take it a step further:  What is it that helps us (Me) overcome the fear of writing something really not good?

I'd like to say it is faith.  Faith that I can do it.  Faith that if I just work hard enough on it, the product will be good--it just has to be.  Right?

Wrong.  Working hard does not guarantee great writing (it DOES guarantee that you are becoming more of a writer, though).

There is nothing that guarantees great writing.

So, what then?

Well, I think what gets me out of my own head enough to follow the idea, even at the risk of writing drivel and ruining the very idea that once inspired me, is curiosity.


For me, that is the biggest motivator in writing. And my curiosity manifests itself in two ways.

1.  The Self-Challenge aka Can I Do It?  I read a recent interview of Stephen King by Neil Gaiman where Neil asked Stephen why he wrote a sequel to a certain book (I think it was The Shining, but I am not certain.  Hey, it's Monday night and I'm feeling too tired to look it up.  So let's just say, yes, it was The Shining.) Anyway, when Neil asked him why after a kabillion years he decided to write a sequel, Stephen said something about it being such a crazy thing to do, he just wanted to see if he could.

I have stories like that--stories I am working on just to see if I can do it.  One in particular is a picturebook tentatively titled BOOM!  which is told only in sound-effects, but contains a complete narrative (albeit short).  I just really want to see if I can pull this off.  I mean, what a fun book it would be to read.  And even if I try and it stinks, well, at least I won't be curious about it anymore.  I'll KNOW  if I can do it or not.

2.  The Follow the Story Challenge aka What is Going to Happen Next??  If I do a good job of setting up my story, then often the sheer curiosity of finding out what is going to happen next is enough to get my fingers typing.  I don't tend to outline, so more often than not, I am surprised by what happens on the page, and that curiosity trumps the fear.  I just have to know what will happen.

Most of my novels are like this.  I get so immersed in the story that I don't have time to be afraid of it.

What helps you overcome the fear of writing bad stuff?  (Or maybe you are lucky and have no such fears!)



Jess said...

When I started writing, it was much more number 1 for me (Can I do it?). That's still very much part of my motivation, but as I've started to improve, I've seen number 2 sneak in as well. I get a little bit more invested in the stories, and I start to wonder what the next step in their fictional lives are :)

Matthew MacNish said...

For me, it's not so much a fear of writing bad stuff - I mean I know I'm at least decently talented - but more a fear that my writing will always be good, but never good enough.

Julie Dao said...

Me, too! I love the challenge. One of my new stories will be a pretty big stretch from anything I've ever done, so it'll be me proving to myself that I can can can!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shelly! Interesting post. For me it is wondering if I can do it. Will it be good enough?

Christie Wright Wild said...

Me too! Sometimes it's not so much the curiosity to see if I can pull it off (i.e. doing it well), but just to see if I can write it at all. If I write it, I can say, "I did it!" (Even if it's terrible.) So I guess I would classify that as looking forward to the accomplishment of having written - no matter the quality.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think the biggest thing that gets me through it just knowing I can always go back and make it better, no matter how it is in the first draft.

Of course, that's why I hate first drafts--I know I'm going to end up rewriting almost every word!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I wish I had no fear, but, alas, not so.
The thing that keeps me going (even if I'm slow as a turtle) is learning. I keep discovering new things about how to write better, usually from other writers, and when I realize each draft gets stronger because of what I've learned I feel stronger.
My darkest hours are when I'm not sure I'll ever be strong enough, but I'm not sure I could quit trying. I like writing too much.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

First let me say I'm so glad to hear you aren't a plotter. I just finished my first draft of my first mg novel and I didn't outline it. I was so surprised when my characters did things or showed a trait that surprises me.

I was really scared to try and write this story as it mattered so much to's based on grandparents experiences during WWII.

I put it off for a long time. I had several agents and an editor tell me that my pb should be a novel over the last few years...but still I was hesitant.

I sent Lenny my first six chapters (that was all I had done in two years) and he wanted more, so I wrote more. He asked me almost daily for the next chapter until it was done or at least this book is done...I see several more in these character's future.

So there's my testimony for just pushing through and you might even surprise yourself. :)